Water is water, but we distinguish it based on where it comes from. The water we use falls into two categories.
Surface water is fresh water found on the surface of the Earth, in lakes, rivers, marshes, streams, swamps, and tributaries.
Groundwater, on the other hand, is water that is found underneath the soil surface. It’s contained in the Earth’s subsurface layer of soil and rock.
For a long time, groundwater was the primary water source for the Houston metropolitan area, which over the last 50 years has been one of the fastest-growing urban regions in the United States. With a rapidly-growing population using more and more groundwater, subsidence has become a real problem.
Subsidence is the gradual sinking of a geographic area of land. It occurs when water is drawn from the ground faster than it can be replenished. Some Houston-area neighborhoods have suffered such elevation losses that they have been threatened with complete destruction from flooding.
That’s why the North Fort Bend Water Authority was created—to assist in converting our region from groundwater to alternative water sources, mostly surface water.
Over the next 50 years, our population is expected to more than double. If all these folks were to rely on groundwater, another five feet of subsidence would result in northwest Harris County by 2030. That’s why we’re making a transition to surface water and why it’s so important for everyone to practice water conservation.